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Working Memory, and Getting Things Off Your Head

Excellent, excellent email here from Cristian Strat in response to last week's newsletter, "GSV#9: Get Things Off Your Head."

Here's Cristian -

Hey Sebastian! I was thinking about the impact of getting things off your head.

I'm not an expert but I was reading about Working Memory and the correlation between that and your general level of fluid intelligence and attention level. Apparently people can only hold about 5-7 bits of information at once for thought manipulations and reasoning. Apparently, being able to hold a few more things in your working memory makes a dramatic improvement in your thinking abilities. Consequently, a smaller capacity will make for an inferior thought process.

Now, when you try to keep things in your head (like "Don't forget to call mom at 4pm") while working, you effectively operate with a lower capacity Working Memory. You constantly have to refresh "Don't forget to call mom at 4pm". As an experiment, try to remember a 4 digit number while working on something.

Developing Willpower, by Jason Shen

Jason Shen has achieved tremendous success in athletics, technology entrepreneurship, writing, and living an outstanding life. To promote his recent GiveGetWin deal on The Science of Willpower, he sat down to tell us how he started learning about willpower, the state of what's known scientifically about how willpower and the brain work, and how you can start improving your life right away by implementing a tiny habit, thinking and systems, and using some powerful thinking tools. Enjoy:

Developing Willpower by Jason Shen, as told to Sebastian Marshall

Willpower has been an undercurrent in my entire life. In gymnastics, you have to use your willpower to overcome your fear of an activity and go for the skill you want, to get over the fear, to push yourself to finish your conditioning and strength training a part of you doesn't want to…

It didn't come automatically to me. When I was a student, I wasn't automatically self-disciplined. There were actions I knew were useful, like doing my homework in one session without getting distracted, or not throwing clothing on my apartment floor. But I wouldn't always do them, and I didn't know why.

I started to learn those answers during a student initiative course at Stanford called The Psychology of Personal Change. That's when I first started reading academic papers on the topic. In academia, willpower and self-discipline is often called "self-regulation," and in 2009 I started to get really serious about it from an academic perspective -- and saw gains from it in my personal life.

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